an Aotearoa poetry journal | ISSN 2744-3248

Poems by Trevor Landers

The Ukrainian Poets as Seen from New Plymouth

Trevor Landers

Published on
page 8 of Tarot #4
(Dec 2022)

This poem has venom in the ink.
On the 28th of February, oafish Russians invaded
the old motherland of the Kyivan Rus
with missile bombardments and a tyrant’s impudence.
I thought first
of Serhiy Zhadan, asleep at home in Kharkiv
a blood-smattered copy of Mesopotamia in the rubble.
Memoir, travelogue, timely or untimely meditation
—or a mixture of all four,
the struggle of this generation
for democracy, and in our own epoch, for life itself.
Or the elfin face of Oksana Zabuzhko
weathered by daily heart-break
without tanks, a treasured copy of
Field Work in Ukrainian Sex, is just a novel,
but it will defend you and Kyiv, long I pray
as we watch the daily atrocities
with growing fury and impotent rage
as patriots stand before the altars of death
like the insurgent Ukrainian armies
written out of Soviet historiography,
just as in The Museum of Abandoned Secrets.
This time we see you and stand with you!
Myroslav Laiuk knows a wonderful word: vozdukh.  1
The Russians want to take it away from him
because—they say—it was theirs so long ago
that it’s already foreign:
He says: we’re inhaling words and parts of words
“voz”… “voz”… “voz” …
it transforms into letters.
The air is redolent with courage and unspeakable deaths.
Halyna Kruk, sits her office at the University of Lviv
a sea of humanity flowing like an undammed torrent to Poland
         in the age of helicopter-gunships strafing civilian trains
    your 2005 Oblychchia poza svitlynoju/The Face
    beyond the Photograph
      just haunts me now, your iridescent eyes glisten from the dust jacket.             Please don’t let them kill you, the whole of Taranaki should be
      demanding
            Please rush to safety, Ukraine will need storytellers and I admire your eyes as much as your lines,
dorohyy.  2

 
1 Hard to translate as the word has gone out of usage in Ukrainian, but “the joy of air” is a reasonable approximation.
2 A term of endearment like ‘dear’ or ‘cherished one’.

The Last Abortive Ascent

Trevor Landers

Published on
page 33 of Tarot #4
(Dec 2022)

It is the Fuji-like symmetry
that sends the inexperienced to their deaths
a climb to the summit
seemingly deceptively easy.
On the day I set out on that climb,
no grief saddled our backs
no stones lodged in our shoes
no ominous clouds on the lower slopes of the mountain,
on the day we set out
leaving nothing behind,
nothing on the bed,
no version of myself,
no dream of a summit climb
turning two-thirds the way up
for a doctor’s appointment in Manaia
with Hugh Dugdale
as the other two
made a successful ascent
I remember
the mountain is high in front of me,
as I look back
I have no voice to quantify the height
my knees feel the strain of gravity
the snow is a clerical collar
I am a study of confessions.

Dream-River

Trevor Landers

Published on
page 58 of Tarot #4
(Dec 2022)

ethereal
astonishing beauty
evoked through rapturous lensing,
swooping and gliding down rushing over stones
descending into your depths
alongside schools of startled fish,
I wish I was a frigate bird
witnessing from above the uncanny patterns
the waterways carve through the landscape.
a reaffirmation of the beauty of you, river,
and an urgent call to protect you
mainly, from all human-kind.

The Old Town Hall Cafe, Urenui

Trevor Landers

Published on
page 43 of Tarot #3
(Dec 2021)

Past the mermaid’s bicycle blue
the foyer
frothing with intrigue
hinting at cornucopias inside
the main parlour
for very high tea
(authentic hand clotted-cream supplied)
a Madhatter’s rendezvous
crocheted blankets on every chair
teacups awaiting parchment to slake
the travelling palate wetted
whistles too
A Cornish pastie!
A Scotched egg!
………..with encrusted pork crackling!
¡Delisioso!
Jacket potato extravaganza
Wunderbar! cries an invisible visitor
Tea, sir? 38 to choose from…..
Scone, sir? 1 of 130
Guinness World Record in the baking
Apricot and cream cheese?
Excellent choice, sir.
The table near talks
of bariatric surgery &
Mt Messenger roadworks
family histories on a plate
& we munch with relish
a church of warm eccentrics
genuflecting towards the scone board
a record nearly clutched by hand
this kaleidoscope room
eyes not knowing
where to look next.

Upper Mohakatino Valley

Trevor Landers

Published on
page 44 of Tarot #3
(Dec 2021)

The serpentine lane
sidewinding up the valley
fallen logs silvered by time
are the slain soldiers of the tops
no surrender has ever been signed

the river of tea
leeched by native flora & deforestation
(farming’s relentless fantasies
of covet and conquer)
scour the hills, muddy truth

these taciturn hills
with sporadic stands of native trees
say nothing; the poet must be kanuka
kauri-father, rimu-mother, speak for these brethren
I am the hills—I shall never erode
find me then, Upper Mohakatino Valley.

Approaching Gully Farm

Trevor Landers

Published on
page 45 of Tarot #3
(Dec 2021)

We take the turning
just before where the Mohakatino River
passes in chicanes into the Tasman
baches clumped like limpets around a rock
at the top of the valley road

we passed the turquoise embassy
with its great trees of moss
three flashing kingfishers
observe the pilgrim’s progress
high in the canopy of kahikatea

The river itself, silent and unbowed
dark and silted, the shy keeper of secrets
wends and winds to the heart of the matter
long after we go, it shall remain stoic.

deeper in, the tarsal track might have
been specifically laid for us, a tranquil byway,
the little lane engenders a smile,
at a country oasis, by graduations,
we are unwound.

A Pigeon at Puke Ariki Plaza

Trevor Landers

Published on
page 54 of Tarot #1
(Dec 2020)

A solitary, self-satisfied pigeon
preens her burgeoning flank, lavender pink breast,
contentedly crooning to herself.

She grips the mottled, lichened ridge tiles of
the dark basalt stone terrace,
patiently, scrounging every last morsel.

She plots her next move, surreptitious forager,
twitching head, scanning 270°, furtive explorations,
the Huatoki Stream will offer no easy dinners either.